In Search of Happiness

At first we thought there were two islands
and we felt we could be happy on one of them.
Perhaps the little one
which was no more than a blip on the horizon.
But Harry said that sadly it was waterlogged and drowning,
the big river shining like a safety pin.
So we thought, well, what about the other one 
but Harry said that sadly it had gone up in smoke.
His brother, he said, had just managed to get everyone out.
And he’d even managed to get the washing machine 
and the tumbler drier and the hat rack.
Then Sarah said that the two islands were in fact one.
And we all felt worried. 
What about the funny little black and white dog?
Where would she have to run to? And could she swim?

Bernadette Hall was born in Alexandra. She graduated with an MA (Honours) in Latin from Otago University and worked as a high school teacher in Dunedin and then in Christchurch until 2005. She was a Burns Fellow (1996), an Arts Fellow in the Artists in Antarctica Programme (2004), the Victoria University of Wellington / Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence (2006) and held the Rathcoola Residency in Ireland (2007). She has edited several collections of poetry including Like Love Poems: Selected Poems by Joanna Margaret Paul (2006), Best New Zealand Poems 2011 and The Judas Tree: Poems by Lorna Staveley Anker (2013). Her most recent works are The Lustre Jug (2009), a finalist in the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards, and Life & Customs (2013).

Hall comments: ‘I’ve been reading a lot of prose and poetry on Pacific themes recently. In 2011 I visited my first Pacific Island, Efate, which is part of the Vanuatu constellation. It was a powerful experience. It shifted my point of view. It was as if I’d finally got it. I too live on a Pacific Island, Te Waipounamu, the South Island, the island that’s shaped like a cello. Just one among all the other islands that crop up in the huge expanse of Pacific water. The effect of the shift was diminishing and, at the same time, reassuring—an almost physical sensation of all of us being in the same mix.’

Poem source details >


Best New Zealand Poems 2011 introduction
‘Poetry with a pulse’ lecture by Bernadette Hal podcast
Interview with Bernadette Hall at NZ Poetry Shelf
‘Seven Minutes with Bernadette Hall’ at Christchurch City Libraries Blog
Poems by Bernadette Hall at All Together Now: A Digital Bridge for Auckland and Sydney
Interview with Bernadette Hall in Turbine 2006